Published on on December 15 2009
Source (German):
Link to detailed article in Huffington Post provided in the first paragraph 🙂

When it comes to digital communication channels, authoritarian regimes and their opponents are in a constant competition. This says programmer Nathan Freitas. Now, his free cellphone software “Guardian” shall add safety to the work of regime critics.

When dissidents in authoritarian regimes get arrested, their cell phones can quickly become evidence for their activities. Thus, pictures, videos, and text messages can easily get dangerous for them. The new cell phone software “Guardian” is supposed to counteract this risk. The application, developed by the programmer Nathan Freitas, shall make the usage of cell phones safer for opposition activists.

Some of the applications planned are the encryption of SMS or conversations. What is especially interesting: certain files can be deleted by pushing one single key.

“Guardian” only works with the operating system Android. The open source software is above all supposed to make the technology attractive for activists in developing countries. It is not known yet when exactly the software will be available.

Published in German daily newspaper “Die Welt” on December 15, 2009
Source (German):

Iran’s opposition has a new hero: Majid Tavakoli, who was arrested one week ago. Iran’s state-run media broadcasted pictures showing the 22 year old in a veil, apparently he had been forced to wear it. Regime critics utilized the twofold message of the picture to start a very special campaign in support of Tavakoli.

Iranian opposition supporters have founded the online campaign 'Men in Hejab' in support of leading student activist Majid Tavakoli. (Photo: Facebook)

A young man with a full beard and a serious look, whose head is covered by a black chador. An elderly gentleman with rimless spectacles wears a headscarf with a floral pattern. A student of heavy build poses wrapped up in a tablecloth. Click by click, this goes on and on, there are hundreds of pictures like that. With every day, the number of photos showing Iranian men in headscarves posted on social networking platforms such as Facebook is growing.

Iranian opposition supporters have started the online campaign “Men in headscarves” in support for the leading student activist Majid Tavakoli. The 22 year old was arrested during a student protest on Monday last week. The state-owned media later released photos of Tavakoli in a chador and a light blue headscarf. According to state news agency Fars News, the activist had tried to escape from the security forces in female clothes.

The recent student protests were staged in continuation of a series of demonstrations that broke out after the re-election of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June had allegedly been rigged. During the protest, Tavakoli gave a speech on the campus of Tehran’s Amir Kabir university.

A video clip on YouTube shows wiggly pictures of him standing on a pedestal in front of the protesting crowd. “Today is the day for this nation to demand freedom and fight tyranny”, he exclaims, visibly moved. “Make a stand against dictatorship, and chant against dictatorship as loudly as you can.”

According to the organization “Human Rights Activists in Iran”, the government’s security forces were already waiting for him when he left the premises of the university. “The agents beat him and injured Majid during the arrest. Passers-by were shocked at the extent of violence and brutality”, it says on the group’s website.

In the picture, which was released after his arrest, Tavakoli looks as if he slumped under the veil. His gaze is lowered in shame. Although the picture looks authentic, some human rights activists have expressed doubts about its genuineness. Others suspect that Tavakoli was forced to wear the chador.

Apparently, the authorities intended to publicly humiliate and discredit the regime critic. However, the attempt has backfired: The same afternoon, a campaign in his support started spreading via social networks, blogs, and photo communities. Meanwhile, hundreds of faces of Iranian men in headscarves are displayed on the internet. “We are all Majid”, it says in many pictures. An Iranian man writes on twitter: “Real men wear the headscarf without fear and shame.”

In addition, by displaying pictures of a man forced to wear a veil, the regime has unwittingly drawn attention to the fact that women living in the theocratic state are subject to this very constraint every day. The opposition utilizes this twofold message of the photo, demanding the release of Tavakoli and at the same time protesting against the dress code for women.

“Iran will not be free as long as Iranian women are not free. Iranian men, let’s wear headscarves in solidarity with Majid AND the women of Iran”, it reads in an entry of a young Tehran citizen on Facebook. Many bloggers criticize that the regime, by assuming that wearing women’s clothes for men equals humiliation, has unveiled its attitude of contempt for women.

A university professor writes on the internet: “Proud to wear my late mother’s rusari, the very rusari that was forced on my wife, and the very rusari that the backward banality that now rules Iran thinks will humiliate Majid Tavakoli. We are all Majid Tavakoli – and we Iranian men are late doing this. If we did this when the rusari was forced on our sisters 30 years ago, we would perhaps not have been here today.”

And thus, the opposition in Iran has once again proven wit and creativity in using the internet as a form of expression for their protest, managing to beat the regime at its own game. What was designed to be the public disgrace of a single person, has triggered a wave of solidarity and identification.

Instead of being exposed to ridicule, Tavakoli has become the second young face of the protest movement, next to the murdered protester Neda Agha-Soltan. The 22 year old definitely knew the risk he was taking: Twice already he was held in the notorious Evin prison, where he was tortured, according to Iranian human rights activists.

„I see the tears in my mother’s eyes, and the anxious gaze of my father. In all the difficulties we are facing, only the desire for freedom can maintain my steadfastness”, he wrote in his last entry on his Facebook page. “So I will once more face all dangers, will stand side by side with my friends with whom I will have the honor to be crying out against tyranny. For freedom.”

Published in “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” on December 15, 2009
Source (German):

Translator’s note: I can only give a summary of the above article, since the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung does not allow to spread their articles without payment.

This article starts by mentioning the situation of women in Iran who manage to emancipate themselves in spite of being forced to wear headscarves. Why have Iranian men recently started to put on veils? The answer is: Solidarity with Majid Tavakoli.

The article reports on the circumstances of his arrest on Monday of last week during the protests on occasion of the national Student Day, when he gave a speech at Tehran’s Amir Kabir University, although he was aware that he was facing the risk of going back to Evin, the notorious Tehran prison, where he had been held twice before. As we all know, Majid Tavakoli indeed got arrested.

The article further explains how government owned news agency Fars published the photo showing Mr Tavakoli dressed in the “typical garment of Iranian female students” (quotation), a chador with a blue headscarf underneath. This article names all facts that are also mentioned in the translation of another article, to be found here

Apart from those facts, this article also mentions that this picture was published next to a photo of Abdul-Hassan Bani Sadr, who allegedly fled to France in 1981 dressed in female clothes, and calls this action “rude”.

The article goes on to introduce the campaigns on Facebook and YouTube that were launched in support of Majid Tavakoli, and pays special attention to the group photos that are described to be a reference to the time when Shah Reza Pahlavi banned the headscarf in 1936, ordering to take photos of all families of the Iranian nobility, with the women having to pose with bare heads.

The article also published the photoshopped likeness of SL Khamenei in a chador, not failing to mention his “rosy cheeks and lipstick”, concluding that the leader has become a laughing stock, dancing and rapping on YouTube, while facing growing political criticism. According to this article, “taboos have started falling like dominoes since last summer”, which is proven true by slogans like “death to Khamenei”, public reports about the situation in Iran’s prisons, and revelations of raped men (this is stressed by an extra exclamation mark).

The article goes on to describe how Iran’s youth – young men as well as young women – in Tehran has long ago started to boycott the official gender patterns forced on them by the government of the Islamic Republic. The message of the government to the young male supporters of the opposition movement is supposed to be “You are not men”. Their answer, however, seems to be: “we don’t care to comply with your definition of men”. Young men show their opposition to the official pattern of virility by the way they look and dress – neatly shaven, plucked eyebrows, some even with waist long hair – whereas the young girls, while growing up, try to preserve a boyish look for as long as possible, in order to as much as possible delay the day their freedom ends.

The article refers to statements of Iranian supporters of the opposition saying that the regime has started to reveal its true face since summer, by their numerous defamations and infamies crossing one red line after the other. In response, the opposition in creative, charming ways confronts the regime with its own mistakes, causing a gradual decomposition of the regime. The regime desperately tries to gloss over the reality in the country. The article names just two examples for those attempts: the propaganda banners blocking the Tehran University campus from views from outside, and the nuclear conflict that is used to distract the attention of the Western world from the reality in Iran. The grotesque competition of the Iranian government of announcing the construction of ten, then twenty new nuclear sites draws international attention to the all-dominant nuclear question, while at the same time fueling the internal conflict the regime so desparately needs in order to be able to survive.